Teaching, research, and administration: Multiple roles in higher education


You’re deep into the edits for your latest research project. One that has sat for too long waiting on you. Finally, you are finding time to focus on it when your phone rings or your inbox dings or your administrative assistant comes in to remind you that a new meeting was unexpectedly set up for you today. There’s that pull – the tug of the faculty duties against the responsibilities of the administrative life.

So you’ve got more than one role? Welcome to higher education. We’re measured on multiple areas of performance and juggling them can, sometimes, lead to stress.

How do you cope? 
Endless spreadsheets mapping your time? 
Multiple calendars? 
Protected times on those calendars for different tasks (until those above you control or modify that time)? 
16-hour working weekends
The death of your social life? 

While these are all likely options you have experienced in one form or another, consider how well they work for you.

The Chronicle of Higher Education noted last fall that today’s faculty are stressed and feeling the impact of multiple roles as budgets shrink in their departments and their time. This stress can be increased when exploring the dreaded “split appointment” role that has many wondering about time management and where to place their efforts when facing tasks lists that never end.

Think about evaluations. How do you evaluate the faculty/administrator appointment? Check your specific institution’s handbook and know the expectations of those around and above you. This can help you prioritize your work efforts. If research is now a lesser part of your expectations, then balance your time accordingly.

Consider your split. If you are 50% administrator and 50% faculty member, consider how your hours work during the week. Review the past month. If you are in meetings for your administrative role for 12 hours a week and only have 8 hours left to actually DO the work for the administration role, you might want to explore the split with your superiors and colleagues. What expectations do they have? Talk with your fellow faculty members and department chair. Try to negotiate limited new course preps in the first year of the new appointment.

Reflect. Explore your calendar, output, energy level, and the expectations of those around you regularly in your first year on the split appointment. This will help you understand where your time and energy should go and help you communicate your expectations to others. This also creates a nice circle of communication where you can get feedback about the goals of those in both your faculty and administrator role.

Work smarter, not harder. Link your publications and research to your duties as an administrator. This way, your research informs your daily practice.

Different types of faculty/administrator positions exist and they are often called different terms (“shared/split/joint/dual appointments”). The shared duties exist for extension agents, coaches, clinical roles, department chairs, and directors, for example. Here are a few readings to explore if you are considering (or currently navigating) the split appointment:

In the end, realize the multiple roles we have as faculty can often start to feel overwhelming. This is true whether those multiple roles are truly a “split” appointment or just the typical trio of research/teaching/service expectations we face. 

What strategies work for you? 

Consider also, exploring the earlier entry: Transition to the split appointment, September 2012

Author of article – Lora Helvie-Mason


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